Boosting Flavor Without Adding Fat or Salt
Last updated: March 2023
If you have high blood pressure, are retaining fluid, or have been diagnosed with kidney disease, your doctor may have told you to reduce your sodium intake. According to the FDA, most Americans consume more than 50 percent (3400 milligrams) than the recommended 2300 milligrams of sodium per day.1
Consume sodium in moderation
Typically, a general goal when living with diabetes is to keep our sodium intake to 1500mg sodium per day. If you have also been diagnosed with kidney disease, please check with your dietitian and doctor for your personal sodium recommendations.2
It's probably fair to say that most of us need to find ways to cut back on sodium.
Taste makes a difference
Taste is one of the top drivers of our food choices. Reducing the amount of sodium in your eating plan does not have to go hand in hand with tasteless food! While we do get the most sodium from packaged foods, there are also ways we can reduce our sodium intake when we do our own meal preparation. By the way, that is the best first step to reducing the amount of salt you eat - cooking at home.
The benefits of using herbs and spices
As a registered dietitian, I boost flavor by using herbs and spices. Not only will it add flavor without sodium or fat, but there are healthy compounds referred to as antioxidants in many herbs and spices.
Antioxidants are plant substances that may protect your cells against the effects of unstable molecules, called "free radicals," which can damage cells. Antioxidants may play a role in reducing inflammation, promoting heart health, preventing cancer. I like to think of these antioxidants as soldiers who help protect our bodies.3
We usually don't think of spices and herbs containing nutrients, but they do! Both fresh and dried herbs provide health benefits. Basil is a good source of vitamin A and magnesium. 1 cup of parsley offers a great source of vitamins A, K, and C.4,5,6
How to use herbs and spices for flavoring your food
Not sure where to start? Basil, curry, dill, garlic, onion powder, paprika, oregano, cinnamon, and rosemary are good seasonings to have in your kitchen.
The difference between fresh and dried herbs
Growing your own herbs can save on costs, but dried spices and herbs work well because they will last longer than fresh herbs. There is also a solution to herbs' longevity if you prefer to use fresh. You can freeze fresh herbs! Wash the herb, pat dry, place in a freezer bag, and freeze. You can also chop the herbs into small pieces and place them in ice cube trays for later use in sauces, soups, or cooked vegetables.
If you are using fresh herbs, pick or purchase the herbs close to when you will be using them. The quantity of fresh herbs needed is about 3 times the amount of dried. As a reference, use 3 teaspoons of fresh herbs for 1 teaspoon of dried herbs. When using fresh herbs, add them towards the end of cooking to get the most flavor.
Ways to use herbs and spices
Looking for ways to spark flavor into your meals without adding salt or extra fat? These are a couple of my favorites:
- Top fresh corn on the cob with sprigs of fresh rosemary, wrap in foil, and grill
- Grill fresh peaches and sprinkle with cardamom and cinnamon
- Add cinnamon and a low-calorie sweetener to your sweet potato
- Wake up your taste buds with thyme. Sprinkle thyme on potatoes, mushrooms, or scrambled eggs
- Use fresh or dried dill mixed with rice vinegar and low-calorie sweetener for a low-carbohydrate vinaigrette for sliced cucumbers
There are many combinations of herbs and spices to boost the flavor of your food. Get creative and do some taste tests to see what flavor combinations you enjoy. Once you start using these low-calorie, low-carbohydrate inspirations, your taste buds will be delighted. Bon appetit!
How often do you find yourself craving sweet snacks?